Lessons I Have Learned
I have been living with terminal bladder cancer for nearly three years now. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had this extra time; this is something we didn't think would happen. I don't take any day for granted now. I would like to share some advice that I feel may help you on your journey.
Firstly, breathe... and remember to keep breathing. Life does get overwhelming now and then, and never more so when you have hospital appointments all over the place. One thing that I have done is to have a folder, with the names of each doctor that I see, on an index separator. This way if I ever need to find a letter or blood forms, I can easily look them up. This has saved me many hours of hunting through paperwork.
Sticking to official bladder cancer websites
Try not to use Dr. Google - he is not your friend! There is so much information out there on bladder cancer, from wellbeing sites to official bladder cancer sites. Try and stick to the official sites. Don't google statistics unless you want to give yourself a heart attack. I googled mine and it said I have a 19% chance of making it 5 years - seriously depressing. Don't do it, step away from the computer.
A place to jot down questions
Have a little notepad in your handbag, or if you are a man, in the car? This way if you think of any questions you need to ask, you can write them down as soon as they come into your mind. Don't rely on your memory as when you are in the doctor's office, all thoughts go out of the window.
Also, be aware that you will all hear different things at appointments. Sometimes I would question whether my son and husband had been in the same meeting as myself. We all hear what we want to, and our minds are very clever and dismiss stuff they don't want to deal with. So, ask if you could record the conversation for future listening. Most doctors will allow this.
There is no "right" way to cope
Remember, there is NO "right" way in which you deal and come to terms with having bladder cancer. Try not to get bogged down by the "why do I have bladder cancer?" or "what if I had done this..." It isn't going to help you in the slightest, and it's not going to change your situation either. You have bladder cancer, and you are going to have to deal with it. It sounds harsh, but it's the reality of the situation.
You can deal with it however you want to, but deal with it you will. Those first few months, you will not know what has hit you. there will be scans, blood tests and appointments all over the place. You will wonder what language the nurses and doctors are speaking. If you do not understand anything, then please make sure you ask, even if it seems silly to you, there are no silly questions where cancer is concerned.
Saving your energy
Once people hear what's happening to you, old friends and acquaintances will start coming out of the woodwork. Only let those people you want to see, come and see you. People want to make their peace, but that is their issue, not yours. If you do not feel up to seeing anyone, then stand your ground. You will need to save your energy for more important things.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where Anita shares more lessons she has learned.
How long did you wait before telling others about your diagnosis?